Saara adivasis in Orissa have undertaken measures to conserve forest wealth
Protectors of the forest
INDIA might be the software superpower but its remote villages still remain caught in a time warp where the effects of modernistion have not yet filtered down. Even after 54 years of independence, the rhetoric of development and conservation rings hollow without the people's participation in development schemes. Here in village Pandalama, 60 kilometres away from Bhubaneshwar, the Saara adivasis undertook forest conservation. They had to protect their resources fromgreedy intruders.
The women used go to a nearby forest to collect dry leaves, which were sold at Rs 8 per bundle. The male members migrated to Jankia district in search of livelihood leaving their children behind.
To add to the troubles, caste drived a wedge even among the tribals. The bone of contention between the touchable and untouchable tribes was the denuded forest. Exploiting the tribal disunity a forest track near Gahirgadia village became the focus of plunderers. The intruders wanted to plunder the forest in connivance with forest department officials. Rising to the occasion, the villagers of Pandalama Adivasi Sahi thwarted their attempts.
It is democracy at the grassroots. Fifteen executive body members have elected Krupasindhu Behera as the President and Raghunath Behera as the secretary. Then villagers are guarding the forest zealously. The adult male members aredivided into 12 groups. There are daily two shifts -- 6 am to noon and from noon to 6 pm. At night information is the most effective weapon against intruders. In case of any news about intruders the villagers collectively rush to the spot and deal with the situation. The thumb rule is simple. Forests are their legacy and intruders are to be punished. The Saara tribe has also formed a self-help group where they collect a handful of rice or Rs 20 for the common fund.
The neglected, decried, socially discriminated Saara adivasis have been guided under the leadership of Surech Ch Patanaik, an advocate turned social activist. He is also secretary to a voluntary organisation niccid operating in Pandalama.
In-spite of the ups and downs the tribals of Pandalama have successfully managed the forests. Today however, their future is in jeopardy with the proposal of amending the Fifth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. The move may take away the constitutional rights of the tribal communities over the natural resources in the scheduled area. The government has been a silent spectator to the tribe's agony. If the amendment is moved the government will be responsible for their alienation as well.
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.